Cornell Gives Up on Reading Books

While Duke’s reading assignment for its incoming freshmen, Fun Home, is making national news because some religious students have publicly refused to read the book for its portrayals of lesbian sex, Cornell is preemptively solving its summer reading assignment problem by doing away with it.

In other words, Cornellians, both students and faculty, dont lik reeding.

As reported in the Daily Sun, the Office of the Vice Provost scaled back this year’s Summer Reading Project due to lack of student and faculty interest in the project in recent year. The Summer Reading Project consists of students and faculty reading an assigned book over the summer and discussing it in small groups with a faculty member during Orientation Week as one of most student’s first academic experiences on campus.

This year’s summer reading assignment was “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut ’44.

The program has existed for 15 years in this manner, but this year the discussions have been phased out, with an art exhibition at the Johnson Museum and other events around campus replacing them.

The Sun reports an email from the Office of the Vice Provost indicating lack of student and faculty interest and engagement as reasons for the change, as well as programming changes to Orientation Week.

Professor Emeritus Isaac Kramnick, government, and Professor Ross Brann, Near Eastern studies, were quoted in the Sun article defending the project. Brann also wrote an op-ed for the Sun on the topic last week.

It should be clarified that the reading, student essay, and student-faculty discussion have never been required of students to do or attend; they are merely suggested activities available during Orientation Week. Clearly, the optional nature of the reading and discussion have been their undoing.

What will replace the Summer Reading Project? Who knows: it could be the Summer Tweeting Project or the Summer Twerking Project, since that’s where it seems all things in this world are headed.

6 Comments on Cornell Gives Up on Reading Books

  1. The decision had nothing to due with Cornellians not like reading. It was done by the administration with no input from students. It shows the university trend is to run more like a corporation than an academic institution.

    • Casey Breznick // September 3, 2015 at 3:48 am //

      I’m pretty sure this was because most Cornellians don’t like to read, or at least they don’t when there’s no relevancy to GPA.

      It’s a sad development.

  2. Janette Lamb // June 12, 2016 at 1:09 pm //

    I found this article while looking for the 2016 summer reading book. I don’t know if I’m more disappointed by the demise of the summer reading project or the fact that the article has generated only two comments. As the mother of a Cornellian I would look forward to finding out which new book I would be introduced to each summer. It strikes me that the seminars were a great way to introduce students to University level seminars and discussions. Perhaps a better solution would have been to make them a requirement, just like the swim test. Like the previous comment, since my daughter entered Cornell as a freshman I have noted a move away from open community engagement in decision making, what a pity.

  3. Nina Rach '83 // June 20, 2016 at 11:14 am //

    I’m really disappointed that the Cornell beaurocracy is not maintaining this reading program. As an alum, I found it an excellent way to connect with the university and get ideas for new reading. What a shame!!! I hope it is reinstated.

  4. Nina Rach '83 // June 20, 2016 at 11:35 am //

    The links to the Daily Sun article and to Prof. Ross Brann’s op-ed are broken.

  5. I loved the program, too, and also found this article while searching for the 2016 book.

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